published quarterly by the university of borås, sweden

vol. 24 no. 4, December 2019

Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Ljubljana, Slovenia, June 16-19, 2019

Conceptualising multidisciplinary interaction by Gadamerian play for creating transdisciplinary knowledge

Maija-Leena Huotari, Sanna Tuomela, Teija Keränen and Anna Suorsa.

Introduction. The study aims at increasing understanding of knowledge creation in a multidisciplinary working community. The theoretical framework, based on H.G. Gadamer’s conceptualisation of play along with its three dimensions, may allow examination of a knowledge creation process when setting up a novel terminology on clean energy research.
Method. The study is explorative and has features of auto-ethnography. Qualitative data consist of documents, videos, emails and notes. The empirical environment is a research and development consortium involving five disciplines.
Analysis. The data are content analysed by applying the three dimensions of the Gadamerian play concept, namely, temporality, structure, and mode of being in play.
Results. The framework was applicable to outline the process, which consisted of four phases. Of these, the third one focused on the interactive workshops for defining the final terms of the terminology. Three stages of this phase were identified, namely, Pre-clean energy research play, Semi-clean energy research play, and Deep-clean energy research play. These stages proceeded from multidisciplinary through interdisciplinary towards cross-disciplinary definition of the terms.
Conclusion. The Gadamerian concept of play along with its dimensions is promising to examine knowledge creation in organisational settings. Future research may focus on a more comprehensive analysis of the data already collected in the study’s R&D environment.


Global temperature has increased with one Celsius degree from the pre-industrial era. This trend will reach an increase of 1,5 Celsius degrees by 2050 which causes many threats for human life and nature. Due to global warming (International Energy Agency, 2018, 2015), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2018) urges for massive reduction of greenhouse gases. The Paris Agreement aims at low carbon and climate sustainable development (UN, 2017, 2015) and European Parliament at increased use of renewable energy sources (European Commission, 2018). This development should be based on consistent multi- and interdisciplinary research, and on multiprofessional and –organisational work in many spheres of human and social life. These environmental challenges call for knowledge integration (Pearce, Mahony and Raman, 2018; Snoeijs-Leijonmalm, et al., 2017) which means that researchers must interact across disciplinary borders, and the boundaries of the academia with different stakeholders. This type of interaction requires also development of a shared ‘language’ to enable co-creation of transdisciplinary knowledge. Knowledge management provides conceptual methods and practical tools for meaning making to gain shared understanding. Our study fills in a research gap on knowledge creation as an interactive process between researchers from different disciplines, organisations and geographical locations. By focusing on examining interaction among researchers for setting up a new terminology on clean energy research in a multidisciplinary research and development (R&D) consortium, our study increases understanding of the potential of knowledge management to enhance transdisciplinary knowledge creation.

Within library and information science, our study is related to research on information storage and retrieval, namely, controlled vocabularies, thesauri and ontologies. They can be used for query expansion when retrieving information (for example, Bates, 1986; Kekäläinen & Järvelin, 1998, 2000; Baskaya, Keskimaa, Kekäläinen & Järvelin, 2009. For thesaurus construction see Aitchison, Gilchrist and Bawden, 2000; Lykke Nielsen, 2001). However, a review of this research is beyond the scope of this paper. Moreover, our study relates to terminology science. According to Nuopponen (2003) terminology science is originated in solving communication problems in cross-disciplinary environment and terminology work ‘...concerned with the systematic collection, description, processing and presentation of concepts and their designations (ISO/FDIS 1087-1:2000).’ It encompasses the whole process of organizing, limiting, creating subsections, collecting data, analyzing concepts and preparing definitions for publishing (Nuopponen, 2003; Cabré and Sager, 1999, p. 115-123). It is usually conducted by a group of experts (Cabré and Sager, 1999, p. 121) and it can be used for descriptive or prescriptive purposes (Sager, 1990, p. 207).

Theoretical background

Knowledge management is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry. Since the seminal work of Nonaka (1994) and his colleagues (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, Toyoma and Konno, 2001) research and practice on knowledge management has often focused on knowledge creation and innovative competences of organisations in different fields of activity and industrial sectors. The idea of knowledge management is based on organisational or community learning and development of human and organizational capabilities to gain unique innovative competences superior to other players in the same sector or external organisational environment. However, models of knowledge creation are rare. The theoretical foundation of our study fills in this gap in research. Our study builds on the knowledge creation model by Suorsa and Huotari (2014) and Suorsa (2015), which is based on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s (2004) conceptualization of play as a mode of creating a shared understanding. In our model knowledge creation is defined as a process, in which sharing information and knowledge and seeing new connections and meanings in interactions results in something new, in our study, a novel artifact, namely, the Clean energy research terminology.

As our study is conducted in a multidisciplinary environment, we view multidisciplinary research as an approach having a joint research problem that the researchers from different disciplines pursue to solve together. This type of activity is also called instrumental interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinary research, in turn, is also called epistemological interdisciplinarity. In addition to the joint research problem and its joint solution, it involves integration of knowledge, and possibly research methods. In this type of collaboration, the disciplines involved stay independent. In transdisciplinary research, also called cross-disciplinary, knowledge is co-created, for enhancing its development towards shared understanding. (Klein, 1996; Aram, 2004.)

Research on climate and renewable energy sector is an interdisciplinary field. There is a recognized need for a common terminology for enabling meaningful communication between researchers, and for sharing the knowledge to wider audience. Climate thesaurus and the Climate tagger by Renewable Energy and Efficiency Energy Partnership and Climate Knowledge Brokers, is a co-creative attempt to set up a common thesauri for climate terminology. () The phenomenon is timely, for example, Frodeman (2010) notes that increasing need for interdisciplinary knowledge makes apparent that the purpose of the academia is not just accumulation of knowledge, but more pertinent knowledge, which helps to resolve complex problems. Often disciplines are seen as having the authority over terms and concepts, or as posing obstacles to interdisciplinary integration of knowledge. Balancing between the established disciplinary meaning of a term and that of the interdisciplinary research community is often challenging with certain terms.

In our study, the concepts of the Clean energy research terminology originate from different disciplines and research traditions, and, for example, the essential term energy is challenging to be jointly defined. To tackle the challenge of creating new knowledge in multidisciplinary interaction, we use the concept of interactive event, which enables focusing on the development of the terminology. We also view the terminology itself as a means to further multidisciplinary, that is, instrumentally interdisciplinary, interaction towards the creation of new transdisciplinary knowledge.

We will examine interactive events through the Gadamerian concept of play and we may present sub-concepts for it. Gadamer’s description of play is based on the ultimate ideal of being in knowledge creating interaction. His conceptualization of being, in turn, is based on the phenomenological idea of a human being and on the notion of temporality of being, in particular. This means, that while acting and interacting in a certain situation, both the past experiences and future expectations are shaping the event of encountering (Gadamer, 1999; Suorsa and Huotari, 2014). In addition, phenomenological idea of human beings is shaped by the idea of open and questionable future, which is full of possibilities, in case human beings can seize the moment and understand their own opportunities, which are shaped by the past experiences (Heidegger, 1985; Suorsa and Huotari, 2014). Furthermore, human beings have different modes of being, and even though the most of the time they spend in the mode of everydayness, they have a possibility to seize authentic mode of being (Heidegger, 1985; Suorsa, 2015).

Gadamerian play describes an experience of authenticity and being present in a course of actions (Gadamer, 2004, p. 87; see Suorsa, 2015). Play as a Gadamerian concept, can be understood through its usual meaning in everyday life (Gadamer, 2004, p. 105). This kind of play has certain rules, forms, and regulations, which, instead of restricting the free element of the play, create means for the play to exist. Play is also always oriented towards something, that is, it has its goals (Gadamer, 1999). Furthermore, Gadamerian play describes being present in the course of actions as a flow-like mode of being (see Csikszentmihalyi, 1991) and this could be seen as a mode of truly creating and learning together (Gadamer, 2004, p. 103). This conceptualisation gives us three dimensions with which to examine knowledge creating interaction (Figure 1).

Figure1: The framework for this study.
Figure 1: The framework for this study.

These three dimensions of play in the event of knowledge creating interaction can be described as follows:

  1. the temporal dimension of the experience of play (an experience of authenticity which means that the actual event of being in a play escapes all analysis, emphasizing the meaning of encountering and the possibilities for playful interaction to happen),
  2. the structural dimension of the event of play (rules, goals within a shared event), and
  3. the dimension of being in play (that is, means to approach the event and experience of interaction in terms of seriousness, being present, openness and criticality. (See Suorsa, 2015, Suorsa and Huotari, 2016.)

Our idea of applying the Gadamerian concept of play in this context, is based on a study by Andersen and Wagenknecht (2013) on epistemic dependence and cognitive integration in interdisciplinary collaboration. Their point of departure is ‘the cognitive-epistemological question of how concepts, theories and explanations from different fields are related to each other, and the social question for how people with different areas of expertise exchange and develop knowledge together.’ (Andersen and Wagenknecht, 2013, p. 1882). In their study a typology of this phenomenon is introduced. Integration by leader refers to unilateral and bilateral epistemic dependence. This means that only the group leader has full expertise and interactional expertise from all fields of the group for integrating all members’ contributions to new knowledge. The rest, three types of epistemic dependence, are multilateral. Common group learning means that ideally at the end of a cooperative activity or process, the group members share the same mental models and concepts. Negotiation among experts means that the members of a group have contributory expertise in their own field but only some overlap between all the fields involved. Joint integration refers to a shared intention to produce a joint outcome. Members have to have contributory expert knowledge of their own field and interactional expertise in the fields of their fellow group members. (Andersen and Wagenknecht, 2013.) In the same way, we may be able to define related types of play that describe the types of interaction at the different phases of the knowledge creation process. In our study, knowledge creation focuses on setting up the Clean energy research terminology in multidisciplinary collaboration.

The research questions are:

1. What kind of sub-concepts of play could be identified in the different phases of interaction when creating and integrating knowledge?

2. Do these sub-concepts of play allow describing the process from multidisciplinary interaction to transdisciplinary new knowledge?


Our study is based on a qualitative approach. The research environment is provided by the BCDC Energy consortium aiming at enhancing change at three levels by developing: the energy system towards increased utilization of renewable energy, the market and businesses towards prosumers, and households and individuals towards intelligent homes and reasonable energy behaviour. The consortium is formed by five research groups from five organisations and the fields of: energy economics, computer science engineering, information systems sciences, meteorology, information studies. There are two strategic partners, namely, the Carbon Neutral Municipality Forum and the Finnish Clean Energy Association, and an advisory board consisting of 15 private firms from the Finnish energy sector. (http://www.bcdcenergia.fi/en/) The BCDC Energy consortium is funded by the Finnish Academy’s Division of Strategic Research from 2015 to 2021. (https://www.aka.fi/en/about-us/SRC/)

Our ethnographic study focuses on the development of the Clean energy research terminology into the Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences (https://tieteentermipankki.fi/wiki/Clean_Energy_Research), which belongs to the European Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure (CLARIN) (https://www.clarin.eu/). The Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences is part of the Finnish national research infrastructure, and through the FIN-CLARIN consortium (https://kitwiki.csc.fi/twiki/bin/view/FinCLARIN/KielipankkiFrontpage), it is part of the roadmap specified by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI)(https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/strategy/european-research-infrastructures/esfri_en).

Our examination has features of auto-ethnography (Chang, 2008) as we are partly examining our own work as researchers involved in the development of the Clean energy research terminology for setting up an integrative knowledge-base for the BCDC Energy project. The ethnographic data of our study consist of notes and documents produced in the creation process, video material from both the meetings of the community as a whole and the group discussions where the terminology was finalized, and discussion threads and logs from the digital platform used by the consortium for sharing and storage of information. (See Tables 1 and 2.)

Table 1: The video data used in this study.
Workshop with the research group 1 and the coordinatorSpring 2017 1h 8 min V1
Workshop with the research group 2 and the coordinatorSpring 20171h 9 min V2
Workshop with the research group 3 and the coordinatorSpring 2017 2h 4 minV3
Workshop with the research group 5 and the coordinatorSpring 2017 1h 52 minV4
Meeting of the BCDC steering groupJanuary 2016 1h 30 minV5
Meeting of the BCDC steering groupApril 2016 2h 33 minV6
Meeting with the research group 5 and the Term bankJune 2016 1h 7 minV7
Meeting with the BCDC community and the Term bankJune 2016 55 minV8
BCDC workshop with the whole community April 2016 2hV9
BCDC workshop with the whole communitySeptember 2016 6hV10
BCDC workshop with the whole communityApril 20174h 30 min V11

Table 2: The documents used in this study.
Memo of the steering group’s meetingJan 22, 2016D1
Memo of the steering group’s meetingApril 4, 2016D2
Notes of the coordinatorJan1, 2017-
Dec 31, 2018
Notes of the BCDC terminology work processJan1, 2017-
Dec 31, 2018
Emails with research groups’ members before workshops (70)Winter 2017D5
Emails with research groups’ members after workshops (50)Spring 2017D6
The Clean energy research terminology in the Term bankSummer 2017D7
Email and notes from phone calls with the Term bank’s coordinators Jan1, 2017-
Dec 31, 2018
Terminology work on excel sheetsSpring 2017D9

Our qualitative content analysis of the triangulated data focused on the three dimensions of play (temporal, structural, being in play) in the knowledge creating interaction. First, the phases of the process as a whole were identified along with each phases’ stages. Our analysis focuses on the third phase of the development process, Discussing the terms in the workshops. In these workshops, the final terms were selected and defined through intensive interaction among the researchers of the research groups and the project researcher who acted as a coordinator and a facilitator of the process.

To illustrate how we operationalized the main theoretical concepts of our framework, we give a couple of examples related to dimensions of play. The temporal dimension’s experience of authenticity in play and encountering for playful interaction are highlighted by ‘Immersing together in the creation of definitions and modifying the terminology.’ (V1-V4). Seriousness, being present, openness, and criticality of the dimension of being in play, in turn, is evident in the research groups’ way of interacting for defining the core terms as follows: Critical deconstructing and reconstructing the terms; after the terms were reorganized and modified, one group member continued as responsible of the definition work (Research group 1, V1), a small team of three members defined the terms efficiently at one stand, engaging all equally for playful, yet critical and efficient interaction (Research group 3, D3, D4), serious dedication to fine-tuning the definitions (Research group 4, V3), the terms were more abstract and philosophical than in other workshops, thus they were left for further pondering and discussed by emails for a month before arriving the final definitions (Research group 5, D3, D4, V4), the responsibilities were shared and accepted (all research groups).


Figure2: The interactive development process of the Clean energy research terminology as a whole.
Figure 2: The interactive development process of the Clean energy research terminology as a whole.

In this findings section we will focus on the terminology work on the third phase, which consists of three stages. We will label the types of play, that is, the sub-concepts of play, according to the emphases of the three dimensions of play gained at the three stages of this phase, namely, Pre-clean energy research play with multidisciplinary terms, Semi-clean energy research play with multi- and interdisciplinary terms, and Deep-clean energy research play towards an inter- and transdisciplinary terminology.

Pre-clean energy research play with multidisciplinary terms

Pre-workshop interaction took place at this first stage. The temporal dimension focusing on experience of authenticity in play and encountering playful interaction was identified in the coordinator’s interaction with information sources for pre-defining the terms of all five disciplines of the BCDC Energy consortium. The coordinator exchanged altogether 70 emails with the research groups’ leaders (D5). All the group leaders were active in participating in the interaction and took the responsibility of completing the terminology work seriously, which they expressed in their immediate responses, willingness to organize a workshop and in careful consideration of the corpus of the terminology.

The structural dimension at this first stage was based on the initial goal and rules set, agreed upon and accepted in the BCDC Energy consortium’s steering committee. This goal along with the rules were shared by the coordinator to all research groups and their researchers by email and face-to-face discussions. The goal of the terminology work was discussed with the leader of the consortium. The external terminology service of the Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences set the form and certain rules for the outcome of the work. That influenced the process and interaction, and the way how the goal was set. The Term bank’s experts provided the coordinator with the rules on how technically build a terminology and how to formulate the descriptions and relationships between the terms (D4, D8). The Term Bank is an open, wiki-based collaborative environment, with best practices and rules to maintain a consistent and unambiguous, yet flexible website. The Term bank’s rules were crucial for filling in the excel sheets (D9) used for setting up the terminology.

The dimension of being in play was highlighted in the mode of being. At this first stage, interaction was restricted and happened among the leaders of the research groups. Moreover, the coordinator interacted with the leader of the BCDC Energy consortium, and with the Term bank’s experts. Until this, the collection of terms had been open and uncritical. Therefore, the terms were reviewed with more criticality.

Semi-clean energy research play with multi- and interdisciplinary terms

In the second stage, the temporal dimension was highlighted with the coordinator’s emails and calls to all research groups and their members about the workshops. ‘In order to create the Clean Energy Research terminology we should sit down and discuss the terms and the definitions. What of the following times would suit you?’ (D5). Each leader took responsibility for committing his or her group into the process. This was evident in the ways in which the messages were responded and in the questions as the group leaders asked how they should prepare themselves for the workshop and organised the workshop in a time all group members could attend it (D5). At this stage, it was found crucial to involve all researchers’ expertise in defining the terms in order to include all the knowledge of the research consortium in the novel terminology.

The structural dimension of play was set by the goal and rules that were applied as given by the Helsinki Term bank for the Arts and Sciences. The coordinator sent each research group a list of that field’s terms and her suggestions for their definitions (D9). In this work, the excel sheets included the rules for defining the terms and writing or outlining the definitions in a consisted way in two languages, English and Finnish. It was emphasised that the definitions should be scientific yet popular and from the clean energy research viewpoint.

The dimension of being in play was evident through the coordinator’s emails to all research groups as the researchers were invited into the play. The goal of working was shared with all five research groups and the coordinator provided each of them with its automatically collected terms that were pre-listed in the excel forms (D9). All researchers were involved, the process was opened to all, and involved creativity, reflectivity and critics when the terms were reviewed (D5, V1-V4). At this phase, criticality and commitment increased, and the researchers strived to formulate terms before the face-to-face meetings.

Deep-clean energy research play towards an inter- and transdisciplinary terminology

At this third stage, all three dimensions of play gained more emphasis than in the previous two stages. The temporal dimension was highlighted with the workshops, which were led by the coordinator, who took a facilitator’s role. In the workshops the researchers of each research group had intensive, deep discussions about the most relevant terms of their field related to this topical area along with their most relevant definitions. Their encounterings with each other were very productive.

The experience of play focused on the initiation of the interdisciplinary terminology that was elaborated and published in a concrete form (D7). In a more abstract level through interaction points in time, an interdisciplinary understanding of the studied phenomenon was created and shared.

The structural dimension was evident though the rules and the goal that were set at the beginning of the process. However, they were refined as the work proceeded, particularly in the face-to-face interaction of the workshops (V1-V4). There were five workshops in total. The face-to-face interaction led to the decision to take the BCDC Energy consortium’s research as the primary viewpoint for defining the terms in all disciplines involved. This decision had a strong influence for the development from a multidisciplinary one towards an inter- and even transdisciplinary terminology related to a few terms (D5, D6).

The tight relation of the dimension of being in play with the structural dimension of play was evident at this third phase. Redefinition of the goals and rules for interaction released researchers’ intellectual and creative capacity to interactive discussions of the core terms and related relevant definitions. At this Deep-clean energy research play stage, the dynamics of interaction within the research groups varied from one to another. In three research groups, interaction was efficient, yet playful (V2, V3). In one research group it was very reflective, and most terms were left to further thinking (V4). In one research group, interaction in turn, was mostly critical, the structure of the terms was destructured and restructured, and the corpus of terms was redefined (V1). The actual definition work was left for researchers to be done individually. Face-to-face interaction was critical in creating trust and committing people to collaboration (V1-V4). In the workshops the presence of each researcher, as a most specialized colleague within his or her own subject field, was valued, and the discussion was open (V1-V4). Yet, there was high respect to specialism – a researcher specialized on a certain topic was given more authority when terms of one’s specialty were defined, which refers to seriousness as a mode of being in play. Seriousness came along as people internalized the importance of terminology for the project, and the value of thinking together and creating shared knowledge. The researchers’ commitment was expressed by participation in the discussion, and in the responsibility of the best possible outcome of interaction. (V1-V4.)


This explorative study aimed at increasing understanding of the applicability of knowledge management concepts to describe the process of knowledge creation in an interdisciplinary R&D environment. The research questions were:

1. What kind of sub-concepts of play could be identified in the different phases of interaction when creating and integrating knowledge?

2. Do these sub-concepts of play allow describing the process from multidisciplinary interaction to transdisciplinary new knowledge?

The analysis confirms our pre-understanding that it is possible to describe the Clean energy research terminology’s development process along with its phases by applying the theoretical concepts of knowledge management. By analysing the interaction in developing the terminology in the most intense phase of the knowledge-creation (phase three), we could see differences in the ways of organising and being in interaction. Hence, we could define three stages of play, which all contributed to the process of creating the terminology. Hence, we suggest, that the sub-concepts of pre-, semi- and deep-play could be used to understand the continuous process of creating knowledge in communities. The play as a concept allowed us to examine the process of creating knowledge, taking into account the temporal, structural and experiential dimensions of the events of interaction. Our findings indicate, that in long processes of creating knowledge in working communities, there is a need for different kinds of playful interaction. The development of the Clean energy research terminology required processing a vast amount of information and knowledge and iterating the relevant terms during the different phases of the process. To be able to be in the deep play in face-to-face gatherings, the preliminary phases were essential, as the participants had to know the content and the structure of the suggested terminology, to be able to develop it in the interactive workshops. In addition, the preliminary phases of play were needed to develop the experience of seriousness and commitment to the process. In addition, it should be noted, that playful interaction in the face-to-face workshops of the different research groups varied, and had an impact on the outcomes of the workshops. Hence, our study indicates, that the actual face-to-face interaction in different groups is unique and dependent on the backgrounds of the participants, as well as the organisational conditions. Therefore, the detailed analysis of the interaction in different phases of play could enhance our understanding of different interactive practices in the events of knowledge creation (see, for example, Budd, 2006; McKenzie, 2009, 2010).

Our findings indicate that interactive development has increased cognitive integration among researchers when interacting for compiling the terminology originating from five different fields of science. The characteristics of Gadamerian play, that we identified, reflect the types of interdisciplinary group collaboration described by Andersen and Wagenknecht (2013). In the first type integration by leader by Andersen and Wagenknecht (2013), the group leader possesses the full expertise necessary to connect and integrate all individual contributions, and needs to have at least interactional expertise. This was typical for the first phase Pre-clean energy research play with multidisciplinary terms. It may be characterized by the dimensions of Gadamerian play, starting by temporality and proceeding to the negotiation of the goal and the rules for play for structuring the process, and inviting others into the play as a mode for being together in the process.

The second type of interdisciplinary collaboration common group learning (Andersen and Wagenknecht 2013), regards shared cooperative activity which ideally, evolves to sharing the same mental models and concepts. This collaboration type was identified in the face-to-face interaction among the researchers when they commit themselves to create definitions for terms of the interdisciplinary terminology. Nevertheless, some terms and definitions were more isolated and less integrated into the interdisciplinary phenomenon under examination. They required negotiation among experts, which is the third type of interdisciplinary group collaboration by Andersen and Wagenknecht (2013). In our study these two types of interdisciplinary collaboration could relate to the second phase Semi-clean energy research play with multi- and interdisciplinary terms.

The fourth and the most integrative type of interdisciplinary interaction by Andersen and Wagenknecht (2013) is joint integration. In our study this type of interaction was typical for the third phase Deep-clean energy research play towards an inter- and transdisciplinary terminology and took place in the intensive face-to-face interaction in the workshops and afterwards as the researchers had internalized the rules and the structure of the play. They were in the deep play with each other, the mode of being as suggested by the third dimension of play by Gadamer. In this type of interdisciplinary group collaboration group members ‘all need both contributory expertise in their own field and substantial interactional expertise in the fields of their collaborators. The shared intention to produce a joint result strongly constrains individual contributors.’ (Andersen and Wagenknecht, 2013, p. 1896). The researchers worked together towards a common goal instead of merely focusing on their personal speciality and contributed to the integrated interdisciplinary knowledge.

Salazar, Lant, Fiore and Salas (2012) state that integrative capacity helps facilitate the social and cognitive integration processes necessary for effective group processes that enhance the likelihood of innovative outcomes. Cognitive integration among the researchers of the research groups of the BCDC Energy consortium has enhanced the creation of two new conceptions, namely, a virtual utility and an energy weather forecast. These are examples of the transdisciplinary outcomes of the R&D work within the consortium. Of these two conceptions, the virtual utility, being under development for more than three years, may have gained support from the development processes of the Clean energy research terminology. The energy weather forecast, in turn, was a very early innovation of the consortium.

Our study’s limitations relate to its explorative and auto-ethnographic nature. Auto-ethnography enables studying work processes by using experiences of actors involved and thus enables examination of such phases of work that cannot be videoed or recorded by other means. However, this has also implications for the objectivity of the research, as the researchers are partly analyzing their own work.

Implications in practice

The R&D work had potential to bring its contribution to the existing body of terminologies in Finland. In the beginning of 2019, the Clean energy research terminology was incorporated as a pilot terminology into FINTO, a Finnish thesaurus and ontology service (https://finto.fi/en/) in collaboration with the National Library of Finland and the Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences.

Conclusion and future studies

Our explorative study may contribute to the limited body of research on the conceptualization of the social aspects of the interdisciplinary knowledge creation (Andersen and Wagenknecht, 2013). We have shown, how the theoretical framework of knowledge creation based on the Gadamerian conseptualisation of play can be applied empirically to increase understanding of the interdisciplinary knowledge creation process in the organisational R&D context. The process of connecting and integrating the knowledge of five disciplines involved several phases, of which the face-to-face workshops were the most intensive events of playing in the Gadamerian sense. Our findings gain further support when reflected in the light of the interdisciplinary group collaboration types described by Andresen and Wagenknecht (2013).

When the amount of interdisciplinary research increases, existing disciplinary classification systems can restrict access to scientific information and its use. Classification based on, for example, a certain phenomenon or research method is an interesting research topic that could enhance access and utilisation of multidisciplinary knowledge. Development of a popular terminology for wider audience could provide new topics for research on interaction and science communication.


This study has been funded by the Strategic Research Council, Finland, Project no 292854.

About the authors

Maija-Leena Huotari is Professor of Information Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Finland. She holds a B.A. in economics from Vaasa University, Finland, an M.Sc. in social sciences from the University of Tampere, Finland, and a Ph.D. in social sciences from the University of Sheffield, UK. Her research focuses on information and knowledge management, human information behaviour and practices, and information literacies. She is Leader of the Academy of Finland’s project Cognitive Authorities in Everyday Health Information Environments of Young People (CogAHealth) (2016 – 2020), and Principal Investigator of Knowledge Management and Interaction team of BCDC Energy project. She can be contacted at maija-leena.huotari@oulu.fi
Teija Keränen is a doctoral student of Information Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Human Sciences Doctoral Programme, University of Oulu, Finland. She holds a Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration) and a Master of Arts, Humanities from the University of Oulu, Finland. Her research focuses on everyday energy information literacy. She can be contacted at teija.keranen@oulu.fi
Sanna Tuomela is a human-computer interaction researcher in the Department of Information processing science, University of Oulu. She holds MA in social sciences in the University of Oulu, Finland. Her research focuses on the human-technology interaction and user experience of energy technologies. She can be contacted at sanna.tuomela@oulu.fi
Anna Suorsa is a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Finland. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oulu in 2017. Her research interests are in examining knowledge management and interaction. She can be contacted at anna.suorsa@oulu.fi


How to cite this paper

Huotari, M. L., Tuomela, S., Keränen, T. & Suorsa, A. (2019). Conceptualising multidisciplinary interaction by Gadamerian play for creating transdisciplinary knowledge. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Ljubljana, Slovenia, June 16-19, 2019. Information Research, 24(4), paper colis1945. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/24-4/colis/colis1945.html (Archived by the Internet Archive at https://web.archive.org/web/20191217182943/http://informationr.net/ir/24-4/colis/colis1945.html)

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